Summary: what it is that is really worth running after?
Running After What? Hearing God Through Hebrews 12
Heb 12:14-17 Mar 18, 2007 (4th week of Lent)
I am not a morning person. In fact, I describe myself as an “anti-morning” person. Ask any of the other members of the team that went to Bolivia with me in January, they’ll tell you: “Steve – not so great in the morning… Get a cup of coffee into him, eventually he gets going… but until then…”
Sometimes that can cause problems, like in high school when I had to catch a yellow school bus at 7:15am. Every morning, I hit the snooze button one time too many, got ready as fast as possible, and ran to the bus stop. If I missed that bus, there weren’t really any alternatives, so I ran for that bus. I chased that bus. I pursued that bus… and I did it will all my strength like the day depended on it – because it did. If I missed the bus, the day was all messed up before it even began.
Sometimes I feel like that is a bit of a metaphor for life. Wake up, and I’m already behind. Run after this, run after the next thing, run to the next place, run to work run to eat run to get home. Some days, we start running the minute our feet hit the ground and don’t stop running until we collapse into bed at night.
Sometimes, I wonder what all this running is really about. What am I running after? Am I chasing in circles? Am I actually getting anywhere, or just ending up back where I started? Am I pursuing something that is going to last for eternity, something that brings life to others, something that brings joy to my Lord?
You might think that as a pastor I’d have a quick and easy answer to that question, but to be honest I really don’t. I do have a purpose for my life, but often I live with a quiet unsettled heart because too many of my activities do not line up with that purpose. Or maybe my activities do, but I don’t feel like I’m making progress. I’ve been running after all kinds of things but not feeling like I’m really getting anywhere.
How about you? When you take time to actually stop running and reflect – which many of us don’t do simply because questions like these are too uncomfortable – do you feel that all this running is really getting you where you want to go?
I’m not just talking about a busy schedule. Lots of days, my schedule is not that busy. I’m talking about something quite a bit bigger: where I am putting my effort? What am I really, honestly, striving after? For some of us, that comes out in busyness – striving for meaning, to feel important, to jam as much into life as possible, to “get ahead” (whatever that means). For others it comes out opposite – we want to be comfortable, to be entertained, to have something that fills our time and keeps our brains tuned in to something trivial so that we don’t have to think about anything life changing – especially our pain. Sometimes that is running away.
Heb 12:14-17 (NLT):
I have some good news. God’s Word speaks directly to this question, although I warn you in advance it is not an easy word. In Hebrews 12, we have very clear direction about what it is that is really worth running after:
“14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, for wherever it springs up, many are corrupted. 16 Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. 17 You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.”
The passage begins with the answer to our “running” problem, by showing us what is really worth running after. The word that starts the passage is translated differently in various Bibles: the old version of the NLT which I’m using here says “work at”, which is much better than the new edition of the NLT which just says “try”. The NIV is good, “make every effort”. The NRSV and NASB says, “pursue”, which is possibly the best. Whenever a word is translated in so many different ways, I do a little digging for an actual definition of the original word, and here it is: “zealously to follow… to run after… earnestly to pursue” (TDNT 2:230).